The South's Best Cheap Eats 2016

From hand pies and dumplings to reinvented chicken sandwiches, we scoured the South for the best budget bites. All for 10 bucks or less.

Kaitlyn Goalen
Chick's Fry House Chicken Sandwich
Fried Chicken Sandwich at Chick's Fry House
Christopher Shane

Johnny's Restaurant, Homewood, Alabama
15 Hr. Pot Roast (and Two): $9.99
At Johnny's, the usual meat "n" three meets fresh farm-to-table ingredients. Consider the pot roast slowly stewed for 15 hours until it's falling apart in its own jus. Make one of your "two" (i.e. sides) the collards sourced from local farmer Dwight Hamm or the spinach and chickpeas, an homage to the Greek heritage of chef Tim Hontzas. johnnyshomewood.com

Pig Trail Bypass Country Cafe, Crosses, Arkansas
Hooshburger: $8.19
Located on a roadside in Madison County, this cafe has all the trappings of a typical Southern convenience stop, but the burger has the inflection of owner Hooshang Nazarali's Iranian background: house-ground beef seasoned in a blend of Middle Eastern spices and onion and topped with cheese. 479/643-3307

Three Fold Noodles Co., Little Rock, Arkansas
Dumplings (Jiaozi): $8.69
Naysayers advised aspiring restaurateur Lisa Zhang to forget about the northern China-inspired boiled dumplings and stick to take-out favorites, like fried pot stickers. Fortunately, Zhang ignored them. Over a year later, Three Fold is perpetually packed with locals loading up on pork-and-cabbage dumplings and noodle bowls that are slicked with sesame butter. eat3fold.com

Mamak Asian Street Food, Orlando, Florida
Mamak Roti Canai: $5
A fried flatbread served with a rich and spicy dipping sauce, the Mamak Roti Canai is the opening act at this recently founded Asian-fusion spot. Flaky and soft, it's the ultimate doughnut-like vessel for the heat of house-made curry. mamakasianorlando.com

Ticonderoga Club, Atlanta, Georgia
The Spiedie: $8.50
Two high-end food courts—Ponce City Market and Krog Street Market—have given Atlanta a wealth of affordable options. Inside Krog Street Market, Ticonderoga Club (a new venture from the alums of Holeman and Finch Public House and the former Paper Plane) has ignited an obsession with The Spiedie. This New York-style sandwich features grilled marinated chicken topped with shredded lettuce and a healthy dousing of Italian vinaigrette. ticonderogaclub.com

The Grey, Savannah, Georgia
Lunch in The Yard: $7

Skip the long wait for a dinner table and opt for the communal lunches that happen every Saturday (April to November, weather permitting) on the restaurant's patio, The Yard. Mashama Bailey, one of the South's fastest-rising stars in the food scene, creates a constantly changing menu that has included meatloaf, roasted oysters, and grilled sausage, but the price—$7 a plate—remains the same. thegreyrestaurant.com

Galaxie, Louisville, Kentucky

X-Static: $8
Last summer, the team behind RYE, one of Louisville's best high-end restaurants, opened its counterpoint: a laid-back watering hole with drink specials like the Breakfast of Champions (a can of beer and a shot of whiskey). But it's the cheap yet thoughtful bar snacks that expose the kitchen's pedigree. Take the X-Static, a vegetable-driven fritto misto with chunks of avocado, pickled peppers, scallions, and cores of Bibb lettuce battered and fried and then served with a chili-lime aïoli. galaxiebar.com

District Hand Pie & Coffee Bar

Kung Pao Chicken Hand Pie: $5
Building on the success of their doughnut shop, the District crew opened this outpost to celebrate the hand pie in both its sweet and savory forms. Though the options in the pie case change frequently (follow @DistrictPies on Twitter for daily specials), the Kung Pao Chicken Hand Pie is a standout with the flavors of a take-out staple enveloped in flaky dough that's topped with cabbage and cilantro. districtcoffeebar.com

Tai Ke, St. Louis, Missouri

Shrimp Omelet: $8.99
If it's available, order the shrimp omelet at this somewhat hidden Taiwanese restaurant. In a tender, almost-scrambled-egg setting, the juicy shrimp are encased like jewels. Follow up with street-food classics such as Sticky Rice Cakes and steamed Pork Belly Buns. 314/801-8894

Gocciolina, Durham, North Carolina

Spaghetti All'Amatriciana: $9
Gocciolina's location, on a nondescript street far away from the foot traffic and nightlife of downtown, makes the expertly cooked pastas that much more surprising. Order the Spaghetti All'Amatr-iciana, which is faithful to its roots, the noodles cloaked in slow-cooked tomato sauce with a spine of cured pork jowl. gocciolina.com

Sam Jones BBQ, Winterville, North Carolina

Loaded Baked Potato with Pork Barbecue: $7.50
At the new barbecue outpost from Sam Jones, dig into a tray of pork with slaw and cornbread. Or order it piled high on top of a baked potato. Either way, it's smoked over oak and chopped to feathery perfection. samjonesbarbecue.com

Fassler Hall, Olahoma City, Oklahoma

Duck Fries: $7.50
Fassler Hall's duck fat-fried french fries are doused in beef chili and smothered in gooey melted cheese. Wash them down with one of the many German-style beers on tap at this Midtown biergarten. Don't miss other favorites like the house-made Habañero Chicken sausages or the deep-fried Falafael Dog. fasslerhall.com

Chick's Fry House, Charleston, South Carolina

Fried Chicken Sandwich (with One Side): $8
Chef Robert Stehling is reinventing the chicken sandwich with locally sourced chicken seasoned to its core and a crunchy golden exterior. It comes loaded with a house-made, Texas Pete-spiked mayo, shredded lettuce, and dill pickles—all nestled in a Martin's Potato Roll. chicksfryhouse.com

Spero, Charleston, South Carolina

Lamb Barbacao Sandwich: $9
Spero is taking a rogue approach to the restaurant business, hustling to turn out surprising dishes— almost all $10 or less. That includes the showstopping Lamb Barbacao Sandwich, which is topped with queso fresco, lemon-pickled jalapeños, and a vinegar-based sauce. sperocharleston.com

Porcellino's Craft Butcher, Memphis, Tennessee

The Hambone: $9
At Porcellino's, a combination butcher shop/cafe from chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman, The Hambone gives the house-made tasso a Reuben-style treatment, casing it with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and comeback sauce—the Southern answer to Russian dressing. porcellinoscraftbutcher.com

Dino's, Nashville, Tennessee

Burger + Fries, and a Miller High Life 7 oz. Pony: $10
Dino's, an old dive recently rehabilitated by restaurateur Miranda Whitcomb Pontes, represents the best possible outcome, as its new owners have kept its charms, including the famed burger, which you can enjoy with fries and a pony of Miller High Life for a ten-spot. dinosnashville.com

Hot Joy, San Antonio, Texas

Tater Tot Chaat: $3.99 (happy hour)
The food at Hot Joy is unapologetically over the top, and chef Quealy Watson assumes every diner is willing to embrace the clash between Asian and Texan culinary cultures with each meal. A daily happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. offers $3.99 treats like the Tater Tot Chaat, a riff on the street-food style, Indian-spiced potatoes. hotjoysa.com

Handsome Biscuit, Norfolk, Virginia

Dill Na Na: $4.75
Each sandwich at David Hausmann's shop is cushioned by a sweet potato biscuit. The Dill Na Na, which is stuffed with arugula, dill mayonnaise, and a potato-and-onion frittata, lets the subtle sweetness of the biscuit shine through. handsomebiscuit.com

Foo Dog, Richmond, Virginia

Malaysian Style Ramen: $9
Pulled from the chef's Malaysian roots, the ramen broth in this bowl is enriched with coconut and miso and scented with curry. Galangal root and bean sprouts bob amid the noodles. It takes real fortitude to eat the whole bowl in one sitting, making the price tag even more alluring. foodogrva.com

Beefsteak, Washington, D.C.

Frida Kale: $8.49
At Beefsteak, José Andrés gives veggies the quick-service treatment in salad and sandwich form, peddling fresh local produce to a hungry lunch crowd. While the Frida Kale lets the veggies shine, it also has enough protein-rich heft to make it a satisfying dish—thanks to a mixture of rice, kale, tomatoes, scallions, corn nuts, and pumpkin seeds. beefsteakveggies.com

Collo Rosso, Morgantown, West Virginia

Slice of the Cash: $2.50
College students and pizza fans alike have much to be excited about with the recent opening of this shop; it's devoted to Roman-style, square-cut pizza, and each one on the menu is named for a country music legend. Tandy Wilson, chef/owner of City House in Nashville, designed his pies with inspired toppings, such as those found on the Cash: salami, mushrooms, red onion, Parmesan, and cheesy mayo. collorosso.com